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GENIUS AND STUPIDITY
ABEL was done to death by poverty, Galois by stupidity. In all
the history of science there is no completer example of the
triumph of crass stupidity over untamable genius than is
afforded by the all too brief life of fivariste Galois, The record
of his misfortunes might well stand as a sinister monument to
all self-assured pedagogues, unscrupulous politicians, and con-
ceited academicians. Galois was no 'ineffectual angel', but even
his magnificent powers were shattered before the massed
stupidity aligned against him, and he beat his life out fighting
one unconquerable fool after another.
The first eleven years of Galois" life were happy* His parents
lived in the little village of Bourg-la-Reine, just outside Paris,
where fivariste was born on 25 October 1811. Nicolas-Gabriel
Galois, the father of fivariste, was a relic of the eighteenth
century, cultivated, intellectual, saturated with philosophy, a
passionate hater of royalty and an ardent lover of liberty.
During the Hundred Days after Napoleon's escape from Elba,
Galois was elected mayor of the village. After Waterloo he
retained his office and served faithfully under the King, backing
the villagers against the priest and delighting social gatherings
with the old-fashioned rhymes which he composed himself.
These harmless activities were later to prove the amiable man's
undoing. From his father, fivariste acquired the trick of
rhyming and a hatred of tyranny and baseness,
UntO the age of twelve Galois had no teacher but his mother,
Adelaide-Marie Demante. Several of the traits of Galois'
character were inherited from his mother, who came from a
long line of distinguished jurists. Her father appears to have
foeen somewhat of a Tartar. He gave his daughter a thorough